FRIDAY FIVE: Wise words to live by from one of the wisest women I’ve ever known
AS it’s International Women’s Day tomorrow, I wanted to do a special post to honour the occasion.
Last year I wrote about how to be a better ‘sister‘ but this year, I was a little bit stuck for ideas. Finally, after wracking my brains over what to write, I had a brain wave.
What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than to celebrate one remarkable woman by sharing some of her very wise words with you all.
The ‘remarkable woman’ I’m going to tell you a little about isn’t famous. Nor are her words well known. But she was remarkable. A woman born way ahead of her time. A woman who lived her life unapologetically, the way she wanted to. A woman who knew her own mind and was never afraid to share it.
Her name was Peggy Eileen Foster (nee Burt). And she was my Gran.
My Gran was – and continues to be – without doubt, one of the most influential female figures in my life. And although, she passed away over 10 years ago now, believe me when I say there is not one single day when I do not think about her or miss her so very much. In fact, I would give anything for her to walk in the room right this very second. Or to be able to thank her for being such an inspiration to me.
She was not – as some of you might be imagining – a cuddly, maternal kind of Grandma who baked cakes and smothered me with love and affection. Not at all. If anything she was the opposite in many ways.
My Gran was feisty, often fierce, always opinionated and could tear a strip off me (or indeed anyone else) within a blink of an eye. But in every sense, she was rather wonderful. She was clever, determined, knowledgable, outspoken, brave, ambitious, inspiring and most of all wise. SO very wise.
The words I’m about to share with you come from her letters which are some of my most prized possessions. Throughout my life we would always exchange letters and cards, mainly because she lived so far away. I lived in Rochdale, she lived in Somerset.
Our letter exchange was a habit that continued right through from my school years to university and now as I go through and read them from time to time, I’m just so incredibly grateful to have her words with me still. To see her handwriting. To feel her presence. This is the magic of handwritten letters.
My Gran was an incredibly private person so I am a little apprehensive about sharing her words with you all. But I like to think that because she was such a proud feminist, she would appreciate and accept why I’m doing it and give me her blessing.
I hope you find her words as inspiring as I do.
Gran…from one ‘Eileen’ to another, it’s over to you ;-) X
Use your brains
“Guess you are up to your neck in homework. Still it keeps you out of mischief and makes you a very clever young lady. Well you can’t help having brains can you? – it’s in your genes so they say and as long as you use them they work for you. If you don’t use them you’re as daft as anyone else if you know what I mean.”
There’s no date on this letter but the mention of ‘homework’ highly suggests that I received this whilst at school. My Gran was a huge believer in the power of knowledge and education and always encouraged me to better myself. And as a woman, she always valued brains more than beauty.
Lesson? Use your brains ladies. Don’t ever just rely on your feminine charms. Knowledge is power!
Do so if you get the chance
“Went to visit parliament with local MP – absolutely wonderful. Do so if you get the chance, but get a good guide – ours was wonderful. Watched goings on in the House Of Lords, all gold leafed, painted for opening of Parliament next week! Looked wonderful. Tell you all about it one day. Bore you to tears! Love you, take care!!…”
My Gran loved politics and was always getting involved with local goings on. If something needed to be done, you can bet your bottom dollar she’d make sure it’d happen. Her ‘do so if you get the chance’ phrase reminds me of her natural enthusiasm for life and her willingness to do stuff AND get stuff done.
Lesson? Be bold and take every opportunity that comes your way. DO so if you get the chance.
Have a go at everything
“Thank you very much for the beautiful card. I have not tried anything like that…However will keep my eyes open for a class / instruction for doing some. Have to have a go at everything. Am hoping the school will do computer lessons – not that I’ve got – or will have a computer but I’d like to learn the basic jargon. Must keep up with the times. On the other hand I can’t think why?…”
Even just a few years before her death, in her early 80s, my Gran was still passionate about learning and trying new things. She loved to be creative and never really did ‘old’.
Lesson? Try everything. Keep interested. Stay young. Age is no barrier to learning something new or experiencing something different.
All things come to an end
“Look forward to seeing your snaps. Must be a come down to earth in Bolton?! But all good things come to an end – guess the bad things do as well. Seems as if you really mean to get going this last year – all power to your elbow. Tis a very hard time for you but you have the right approach. Did you opt for Lady Macbeth or Cleopatra?…”
I’d just come back from travelling around Australia for the summer and was about to start my final year at university when I received this letter. Her phrase ‘all good things come to an end – guess the bad things do as well’ is typical of her outlook on life and stoic approach to accepting circumstances and just getting on with things.
Lesson? Don’t take everything good that you have for granted. And when times get tough, remember things will get better. Life is all about appreciating the good and rolling with the bad.
It will be tough but worth it
“Anyway can only give a big prayer for you every day and hope that Grandad etc looks down on you and gives his blessing! He would have been so proud of you. As we all are. It’s a dream we all had for ourselves I guess but now we can live it through you. It will be tough but worth it that’s for sure. No Prime Minister would say otherwise…”
I read this letter at a bus stop on my first morning as a university student. And I sobbed. In front of everyone. I cried because I knew how much value both my Gran and Grandad had placed on education and how unfortunate they had been to be born in an era when working class people just didn’t get to go to university and study.
They were both very clever people and yet because of their background, they were denied the opportunity which had come so easily to me, just a few generations on. I was the first member of my family to go to university and my biggest sadness is that my Gran didn’t get to see me graduate as she passed away just a few months earlier.
Lesson? Anything worth having will never be easy. Be that, a job, an incredible opportunity, the love of your life or children.
Tough things can be hard to deal with, but the outcome is worth it. (Oh and also, value education. The opportunities we have nowadays, are ones my grandparents would have dreamed of.)
I love you Gran. Now, always and forever. X
Happy International Women’s Day everyone! Please make it count.